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When a Nursing Student Has a Prior DUI

When a nursing student has a DUI...what to do

When a Nursing Student Has a Prior DUI

Recently it seems there’s an increased number of nursing students and new graduates who are experiencing a delay in receiving their ATTs from the CA Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) and other state boards.

When a nursing student has a prior DUI

When a nursing student has a prior DUI

Some of these delays are due to prior convictions, including DUIs, combined with a stricter CA BRN response. Some attorneys maintain the CA BRN is now denying all applications for initial licensure from student nurses with a DUI in their background.

Most likely you passed a background check before being accepted into your nursing program, but now you have to apply to the BRN for your Authorization To Test (ATT) for the NCLEX and…. you’re worried.

Or maybe you’ve already applied, and your classmates have received their ATTs…but you haven’t.

The BRN-conducted background check delves deeper than other background checks and will reveal a DUI as well as any and all previous charges.

You may feel both embarrassed and frightened at the idea of not being able to take the NCLEX due to a past DUI when you’ve worked so hard to get through nursing school (and mended your ways).

Here’s a look at the facts regarding what a nursing student with a prior DUI needs to do:


What do I have to report on my application?

When a nursing student has a prior DUI, it must be reported to the Board of Nursing (BON). Nursing students applying to take the NCLEX must report all misdemeanor and felony convictions, including DUIs. The only reporting exceptions are minor traffic violations, fines, or infractions under $1,000.00 (CA).

Indicating “yes” to any questions about convictions, past actions, or possible impairment does not mean your application will be denied. It means more information must be gathered and considered before a decision can be made, which delays the usual application and testing process.

But what if my DUI conviction was expunged?

When a nursing student has a prior DUI...what to do

When a nursing student has a prior DUI…what to do

“I’m a responsible nursing student now, and my DUI is way behind me!”

Convictions must be reported even if they have been:

  • Expunged under Penal Code Section 1203.4.
  • Dismissed
  • Adjudicated

The BRN will discover all records, even if they have been sealed or dismissed. Failure to report can result in denial of licensure.

 I completed a court ordered diversion program and my charges were dismissed..?

The charges must still be reported even if a court ordered diversion program has been completed and all charges have been dismissed. Failure to report can result in denial of licensure.

 Can I obtain a license as a registered nurse if I have a misdemeanor, felony, or DUI conviction on my record?

Yes, each case is reviewed on a case by case basis related to the qualifications, functions or duties of a registered nurse.

The BRN considers the nature, severity, and recency of the offense, as well as rehabilitation and other factors. How old were you when you committed the offense or had the DUI? How much time has elapsed since then?

 Is there any specific conviction that will automatically disqualify me from receiving my license?

According to the CA BRN, there is not any one specific type of conviction in and of itself that will disqualify an applicant. Each applicant is considered on an individual basis. (Other states vary, and do stipulate certain offenses as automatic disqualification for licensure).

What type of documentation do I need to submit in support of my application if I have a prior conviction or DUI?

In addition to the documents required for licensure, the BRN will require:

  • Certified court documents
  • Arrest report from arresting agency, to include the Blood/Breath Alcohol Content (BAC)
  • A letter of explanation from you- this letter is extremely important. Once it’s submitted, you cannot change it or retract it. Take care in composing it.
  • Evidence of rehabilitation
  • Evidence of professional treatment and counseling you may have completed, with discharge summary
  • Letters of reference from others
  • Proof of community work, schooling, and/or self-improvement efforts
  • Court-issued certificate of rehabilitation, evidence of expungement, proof of compliance with criminal probation or parole, and orders of the court

Can I receive an Interim Permit if my application is under review because of convictions?

when a nursing student has a DUI

I would love for you to check out my new book…..full of insider tips!

No, you are not eligible for an IP until the review has been completed, and a final decision has been made regarding your application.

How long will this take?

It can take several weeks, and in some cases, even much longer.

When you apply, be fully prepared with information regarding your background prior to making application to the BRN. Otherwise, your request for an ATT will be delayed. Enclosing all of your supporting documentation will expedite the process and the review.

Again, be sure to send everything that is requested. If you have completed everything to the best of your ability, and taken care with your letter, then it is now out of your hands.

Try to relax and let go.


Writing a Letter of Explanation to the BRN for DUI 


Good luck!


Until next time,

Nurse Beth

This does not constitute legal advice. Please contact your BRN for more information. 



About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

8 Comments on When a Nursing Student Has a Prior DUI

  1. I am in nursing school and was charge with a DUI about 12-13 years ago. I’m beginning the process now for a governance of pardon in the State of Pennsylvania. I am not eligible for an expungement because I did not complete my ARD program completely, therefore, I had to please guilty to the DUI when I was the ripe young age of 18. Any pointers folks? I’m determined to be a nurse and will do whatever is necc. to sit for my boards. I was young and dumb, and I realize that now.

    • When you are close to completing nursing school and you apply to the BON for your authorization to test (ATT), you will be required to report past offenses. #1: Don’t conceal anything.The BON will conduct an FBI level background search far more extensive than what any nursing school conducts. Expungement does not protect you.
      #2: Express remorse and illustrate rehabilitation (just like you are doing) #3: The BON will take note of the fact that it has been 13 years since your offense. That is a long time ago for the nature of the offense. Good luck to you, I believe you will be a compassionate nurse with self-insight.

  2. I know how agonizing it is for those of us with a prior DUI to continue on through nursing school only to wonder and hope the BRN will allow us to be licensed. I was able to get a fully unencumbered license recently. I want to share with others what I did.

    Several months before I graduated from nursing school, on Aug 2 2014 I put in application to the BRN along with the following:

    letter of explanation about DUI (dui was 13 years ago)
    certified copy of court paper (1 page only because $25 per page)
    copy of my 2010 expungement
    copy of my probation completion
    copy of my MADD completion
    copy of my diversion class completion
    police form showing my arrest record was purged 5 years prior
    Live scan forms

    Aug 27 my BRN payment was processed

    Aug 30 Sent BRN a letter from my primary doctor saying my medical records and labs over the last 5 years do not indicate any signs of symptoms of alcohol or drug dependency

    Sep 3 sent BRN an evaluation report from an alcohol and drug assessment counselor ($200)

    Oct 25 recieved letter from BRN telling me they need my transcripts, school roster, and that my file would be deferred to enforcement for the DUI.

    Nov I graduated from nursing school

    November 3 BRN issued letter stating I am free to move forward!

    I took my test and passed and got my license the next week.

    One thing I expected to do and dreaded was telling my Dean and instructors about my DUI since I believed I would need to get letters from them to the BRN to attest to my character. I fully expected to do this but thought I would get to that after my file went to enforcement and was denied. Fortunately I did not have to do that extra step and I can move on with my license and my life.

    I have spent many hours pouring over other posts and sweating it wondering what would happen. This is such a relief! I hope this post can alieve some of the anxiety others with prior DUIs may be going through. It would help if the BRN had better information and guidelines about what will happen and what one needs to do to rectify the situation, but unfortunately they leave you hanging.

    I don’t know if there was anything in the docs I posted that tipped the scale in my favor. I think I wrote a very heartfelt letter atoning for my DUI and letting them know what had changed in my life and that it would never happen again. The dependency assessment may have been a good thing or maybe a total waste of money. Just try to throw as much evidence as you can at them.

    Good luck!

    Oh yeah, one other little thing I want to mention. I was talking to a friend of mine. He said 8 months ago he got in a fender bender. The police gave him a breathalyzer and he blew a 0.04…under the legal limit…but he still got charged with a wet reckless!!! He still did all the diversion classes, fines, and everything else -paying 20k in fines and fees and having a negative impact on his record. I felt like this was a warning to me not to even have a drop of alcohol unless I am not driving that day. I rarely drink anyway but just in case I ever want wine with dinner in a restaurant…well I won’t.

    • So heartwarming to hear! People change and move forward. I bet it was your letter, like you said. Sincerity shows. Thanks for sharing, good luck! Your whole career is ahead of you, thank goodness

    • Thankyou for posting your personal experience, it helps to hear a real story inline with my situation. You made it, yet took the time to let us know the result. To often someone is having difficulty with questions about their future as a result of their past, but these same individuals forget about the worries for those with the same concerns as they move on. Cudos too you!!

    • Hi please email me when you get a chance !! I have lots of questions for you. my email is

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